Over-the-top claims about tax reform

Michael Tanner uses his latest National Review Online column to explore what he labels “overheated rhetoric” about tax reform.

“Armageddon,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi warned, calling it “the worst bill in the history of Congress,” as it apparently surpasses the Alien-Sedition Acts, the Fugitive Slave Act, the Indian Removal Act, Prohibition, and the Gulf of Tonken Resolution, among others. Liberal journalist Kurt Eichenwald agreed that “America died tonight,” urging, “Millenials: move away if you can. USA is over. We killed it.” And disgruntled former Republican strategist Bruce Bartlett decried the bill for “raping” middle America.

Maybe not.

Start with the debt. It is wonderful that Democrats, who previously considered the national debt somewhere below lawn mold on their list of priorities, have now been reborn as deficit hawks. And there is reason to be concerned that the tax bill will add to the debt. But to keep things in perspective: Under current law, the federal government is expected to collect $43 trillion in taxes over the next ten years, while spending $53 trillion. That will increase the national debt to $30 trillion by 2028. If this tax bill passes, the federal government will collect $42 trillion in taxes over the next ten years, while spending $53 trillion. That will increase the national debt to $31 trillion by 2028.

Worse? Absolutely, like a drunk asking for one more drink. But it would be nice if everyone got this worked up about the first $30 trillion.

In fact, even after this tax cut, the federal government will be collecting 17.6 percent of GDP in taxes, more than the post-war average of 17.4 percent. The problem is that we will be spending 22.2 percent of GDP, considerably more than the 20.3 percent that we’ve averaged since World War II. We don’t tax too little — we spend too much.

Mitch Kokai / Senior Political Analyst

Mitch Kokai is senior political analyst for the John Locke Foundation. He joined JLF in December 2005 as director of communications. That followed more than four years as chie...

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